Pick my read #1

Pick my read #1

recently asked my readers to suggest a book for me to read.

I wanted them to challenge me…to give me something to read they thought might change my life.

Most importantly, my hope was to end up with something I might not have chosen myself…to stretch the boundaries of my literary life.

Their choices were certainly intriguing! I’m excited!

However, I’m going to leave the final choice up to you.

I’ll describe the books for you, and then do a poll.

I’ll read whatever gets the most votes…not necessarily as my next read, but soon.

Oh, and these were the rules I set…that will explain the suggestions which were disqualified from being in the poll. I included those at the bottom of this list. I still appreciate the suggestions, and one of my hopes is that this post helps my readers discover things as well. They may not have the same self-imposed limitations I do. 🙂

  • It has to be available to me in Kindle format through Amazon.com in the USA
  • It can’t block text-to-speech access (it will say that text-to-speech is “enabled” on the book’s Amazon product page)
  • I won’t re-read a book for this, but it’s okay if I already own it
  • I’m going to say it has to be priced under $15…or any book available to me through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (again, that fits the above rules…I just mean any priced book in KU)

Okay, here are the contenders:

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1
by Pip Ballantine
4.2 stars out of 5 | 175 customer reviews
recommended by EJC

My take: they are saying it is reminiscent of The Avengers (Steed and Peel…I was sorry to hear of the passing of Patrick Macnee recently), which is one of my favorite TV series. I’m pretty confident I would enjoy this…but I can’t say it would be a big stretch.

On Immunity: An Inoculation (at AmazonSmile*)
by Eula Bliss
4.1 stars | 106 reviews
recommended by EJC

My take: I actually worked in an immunization project, and work for a healthcare organization now. I like reading nonfiction like this…but I don’t think I would have gotten to this one on my own.

The Martian (at AmazonSmile*)
by Andy Weir
4.6 stars | 11,579 reviews
science fiction
recommended by Dave

My take: I’m looking forward to the movie, and I’ve followed the story of the success of the book. I probably would have read it at some point, but I might not have been likely to read it at this price and not in Kindle Unlimited.

Chameleon (The Domino Project Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by K.T. Hanna
Not yet rated (pre-order for August 4th)
young adult dystopia
recommended by jaminord

My take: some of the best books I’ve read have been considered young adult (or even younger): the Oz books; Harry Potter; The Hunger Games, and I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels (even though my temperament leans more towards the utopian). jaminord edited the book, but I specifically said people could suggest books they wrote, so that’s fine.

The Milagro Beanfield War (at AmazonSmile*)
by John Nichols, illustrated by Rini Templeton
4.4 stars | 79 reviews
literary fiction
recommended by Steve

My take: I sold this many times when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. I was always interested in it, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

Trustee from the Toolroom (at AmazonSmile*)
by Nevil Shute
4.8 stars | 148 reviews
literary fiction
recommended by Jennifer Jeffreys Martin

My take: I’ve read On the Beach, but no other Shute. I wouldn’t mind correcting that. 😉

High, Wide and Lonesome: Growing Up on the Colorado Frontier (at AmazonSmile*)
by Hal Borland
4.5 stars | 73 reviews
recommended by Jennifer Jeffreys Martin

My take: I do like memoirs…I like people, and a good memoir can give you another perspective on the world. I might not get to this on my own.

Huntress Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Alexandra Sokoloff
4.5 stars | 534 reviews
crime fiction
recommended by Joan huston

My take: I do read some thrillers, but I don’t think I would have gotten to this.

Baby Shark (Baby Shark #1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Robert Fate
4.6 stars | 46 reviews
hard-boiled mystery
recommended by Joan huston

My take: I’ve played a little pool in my time. I’m not great (although being ambidextrous helps), but I was a pretty good hustler…just for fun, of course. It’s a three game thing. The first game, it doesn’t matter who wins as long as it is close. The second game, you get a stake in it (doesn’t have to be money), and you lose significantly. Then, they are ready to stake more…and you have to be able to win that one. As you can imagine, a big part of this (and any hustle) is picking in the right person.

A TOWN LIKE ALICE (at AmazonSmile*)
by Nevil Shute
4.4 stars | 467 reviews
recommended by Zebras

My take: another Shute, but I think this was a particularly good suggestion. It certainly sounds different from On the Beach!

Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission according to Holy Scriptures both Ancient and Modern (at AmazonSmile*
by James E. Talmage
4.8 stars | 215 reviews
recommended by tuxgirl

My take: I really like reading books from different religious perspectives, and have read books that cover quite a range of spirituality and religion. That said, I don’t usually look through the religion section at Amazon, so this could be a very good choice for me.

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation (at AmazonSmile*)
by Sharon Salzberg
4.6 stars | 151 reviews
spirituality – meditation
recommended by Amy

My take: I’m a big fan of happiness. 🙂 I don’t do formal meditation, but I have done some biofeedback and can relax myself pretty well. I know that’s not the same thing, but I’d be interested in reading this

The Beginner’s Goodbye (at AmazonSmile*)
by Anne Tyler
4.0 stars | 388 reviews
literary fiction – suspense
recommended by Amy

My take: Anne Tyler is in the category of “I can’t believe I’ve never read anything by…” 🙂

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade (at AmazonSmile*)
by Patrick Dennis
4.6 stars | 228 reviews

My take: I’m very familiar with Mame, having been made into a beloved movie (and one not so beloved) and I know the play. I’ve never read the original book, though, and I really enjoy reading original sources.

The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: or The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating (at AmazonSmile*)
by Stephen Potter
4.6 stars | 16 reviews

My take: this book is right up my alley! I managed a game store, and in understanding what influences behavior is an important part of what I do in my work life.


Thanks so much to everyone who made a suggestion! I’m thrilled by this process, and I intend  to do it again (although probably not very soon).

Here’s the poll! You can pick more than one, and I’ll leave it open at least through Saturday. I may keep it open the whole weekend,  although I may be champing at the bit to get started. 🙂

Update: the poll is now complete, and my read has been chosen! I’ll be reading The Martian, recommended by Dave. Dave, as a thank you, I’d be happy to gift you one of the books in the poll. If you’d like that, just let me know which book you’d like by commenting on this post. I can keep your comment private, if you prefer…please let me know in your comment if you’d like it to be private. I appreciate everyone who participated (either by recommending, or voting, or both), and at this point, I fully expect to do this again. 🙂

Thanks again! I look forward to the results! If you’d like to say more about the books, or about this process, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on  this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

10 Responses to “Pick my read #1”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Whatever book you choose, I’ve looked through the list and decided I want to read “High, Wide, and Lonesome.” [Though that’s not the book I picked for you.] My dad was born on a homestead on a homestead in South Dakota in 1909, the time period covered in this memoir.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Yay! I was hoping people would find books to read out of this…I’m glad you did. 🙂 Interesting about your dad!

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    A couple of weeks ago, one of my 3 brothers asked me if I could recommend a book for him to read this summer. I had an immediate brain fart — One book? I didn’t have a clue as to what to recommend. After I asked, he said it should be an ebook — I have no stinkin idea of what ONE book to recommend :D.

    Your previous post hit me in much the same way, but after my brother’s email, I went to sleep, and had nightmares about what to recommend — I woke up refreshed with a realization that I couldn’t give him ONE book. I could, however, give him a list with my reasons for suggesting each. A few of the books fail your criteria as to eBook availability — I haven’t checked your other criteria.

    I append here the email I sent him:

    Well, when you asked for a couple of books my mind went blank, and I thought to share with you some of my recent reads. Then I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I realized I had quite a list to give you (:grin). This comes with some explanatory notes for each section & author.

    The Winston Churchill book covers his life from birth (1874?) till 1904 — it is interesting because it points up what an interesting fellow he was — even before he became a politician. The writing is very accessible, and the story is absorbing.

    Many English language scholars are of the opinion that the best “serious” novelist in the English Language was Joseph Conrad — ironically his native language was Polish! The first two are classics, the last is one of his last, and is very accessible — interesting to school boys (I read it while a Sophomore in Switzerland). The other two are deeper, and a bit allegorical.

    Joyce only wrote 3 novels — this is the easiest; the other two: Ulysses (very hard read) & Finnegan’s Wake (totally incomprehensible to most).

    Hemingway these days is regarded as a very good albeit second rank novelist. This was his first, and one of his best. His use of language was superb — worth reading just to experience the sentence craftmanship.

    The science fiction stuff is all more than 20 years old. The Van Vogt’s are from the 40’s, and are a bit outre.

    Heinlein is probably far and away the best ever sci-fi author. IMO his best stuff were his juveniles (he wrote about a dozen) — I’ve given you two of my favorites — these can be read over and over. IMO Heinlein’s best novel was “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” which sadly is not available in eBook form (publishers are constantly leaving money on the table because they refuse to convert their backlists to electronic form). After he wrote TMIAHM, he had a blood blockage in his brain which left him unable to write for several years. He eventually had a cranial bypass bringing blood from one side of his brain to the other, and he started writing again. IMO everything he wrote after the bypass is not as good as what he wrote before. I’ve included “Friday” as the best of the post operation works — also not available in eBook form. “Glory Road” and “The Door Into Summer” are adult titles from his best period, and are classics of the genre — also very enjoyable reads (:grin)

    [After I sent this email out to my sibs and friends, one wrote back that he found it strange thatI didn’t recommend “Stranger in a Strange Land”. I had read SIASL before it became wildly popular, and I thought it was just OK — not the counterculture icon it has become. I always thought that his post operation output was poor because of the operation, but now thinking about SIASL’s popularity, I think much of his later work was an attempt to “hook” the counterculture crowd that so adored SIASL — with not great results ]

    “Flowers for Algernon” was a one hit wonder for its author. It was made into the movie “Charly” for which Cliff Robertson won an academy award — even so the book is better — very sad.

    “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is another one-hit wonder — probably the first (and IMO one of the best) post apocalyptic Sci-Fi tales [and I don’t much care for post apocalyptic stories] — not available as an eBook (:grrr)

    The “Darkover” series is very odd — it’s got more than 20 titles (there will be no more as author has died). They were written in one order, but have an internal chronology that is very different. It makes more sense to follow the internal chronology. Read the two I’ve given you (6 before 1) in order to see if the series is of interest to you.

    Similarly, the Miles Vorkosigan series needs to be read in internal order. I’ve given you the first four because Miles only starts to appear in book 4 (the first 3 are mostly about his mother). This is a very popular series; a joy to read.

    My favorite mystery writer bar none is Rex Stout, with his Nero Wolfe detective, and sidekick Archie Goodwin — I’ve given you the first two titles. The series consists of 33 novels and 39 short stories. I’ve read many of these as much as four or five times.

    Dorothy Sayers attended Somerville College at Oxford (Somerville was set up at Oxford late in the 19th century as the first Oxford college to admit women — another notable Somerville alumna was Indira Ghandi). Sayers only wrote 10 or so mysteries (she was mostly an academic and spent a lot of time on a translation of Dante’s Inferno). Nevertheless, she did work for a time in an advertising agency, and this is the result. It comes somewhere in the middle of the Lord Peter Wimsey titles.

    The Dalziel (pronounced “Dee-al”) and Pascoe stories are a delight — only problem is that only the last 3 or so of the 24 titles are in eBook form. I’m not sure these 3 will give the complete feel for Dalziel’s quirky, outrageous, absolutely not PC personality, and the contrast with Pascoe’s decidedly overly PC wife (:grin).

    The Inspector Morse omnibus is the beginning of this series. Strangely the TV show is about as good as the books.

    Lovejoy was also a TV show (as now that I think about it so was Dalziel & Pascoe — but really bad that one) not too bad, but the books are much better — delightfully sinful if you like art and antique forgery as a career aspiration (:grin).

    Robert Crais & Michael Connelly have inherited the mantle of Raymond Chandler, and the hard-boiled detective story set in Los Angeles. Crais was a TV script writer for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law. Connelly had the crime beat at the LA Times. Crais’ detective is private (Elvis Cole), while Connelly’s is a detective with RHD (Harry Bosch) in the LA police department. Oddly (and coincidentally) both these fictional detectives live on the same street (Woodrow Wilson Drive in the hills above LA) albeit miles away from each other. Both have had movies made of their stuff, but not of their prime detectives: Crais with “Hostage” starring Bruce Willis, and Connelly with “Blood Work” starring Clint Eastwood. Both series are really good. Connelly is a Floridian born & raised — he recently left LA and moved back to FL — he lives on the West coast of FL.

    Nicolas Freeling wrote a lot of mysteries. He had two main series: Inspector van der Walk in Holland (he eventually killed him off); the other, Henri Castang is French with the Policier Judiciaire. I included one Castang novel to give you a flavor of the screwy French police and judicial structure which dates back to the French Revolution, and Napoleon. The French approach to jurisprudence is called “Napoleonic” (:grin)

    Donna Leon grew up in Montclair NJ, but she’s spent most of her adult life overseas — mostly in Italy. She’s in her 70’s, and lives in Venice. There are 20 some odd Commissario Brunetti titles thus far — all set in Venice. They are great depictions of the dysfunction (and overall zaniness) of life in Italy. You might need to keep Google maps on Venice nearby so you can better follow what’s going on and where.

    Harlen Coben grew up in Livingston NJ, and he now lives in Ridgewood. He has one series: Myron Bolitar some of which is set in North Jersey (some even in Bergen County[my family is from Bergen County NJ] ). He also writes stand alone thrillers. There is a young adult spin-off of Myron Bolitar for his nephew Mickey Bolitar. I’ve given you the first two Myron Bolitar’s.

    Humor is probably not your thing, and British humor even less so. “Three Men in a Boat” is from the late 19th century, and is considered a classic — remarkably not dated at all .

    In the 20th century, the humor genre belonged to PG Wodehouse. He’s best known for his Jeeves stories (also a TV series starring Fry & Laurie which comes pretty close to the books — what would you expect from a pair of Oxbridge trained actors?). In addition to writing books (he wrote over 90); he also produced over 30 shows with Guy Bolton on Broadway — all before 1925 (he died in 1975). He spent a couple of years in Hollywood where he said “never was one paid so much for doing so little” (:grin). While there he helped found the Hollywood Cricket club (which still exists today — see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Cricket_Club). He was a noted lyricist, and penned many a song for Broadway musicals see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_with_lyrics_by_P._G._Wodehouse

    I’ve given you two Jeeves (not the first — as it’s a collection of short stories only half about Jeeves). “Joy in the Morning is considered one of the best Jeeves. I’ve also given you one Blandings Castle — given your agricultural background, it may be more to your taste (:grin).

    “Gadget” is a cautionary tale about how easy it is to build an atomic bomb. Anyone interested in non-proliferation should read this.

    Lastly, this is the 150th anniversary of “Alice in Wonderland” — it has never been out of print. While the Disney animated film is charming, the book is better.

    My Early Life
    by Winston S. Churchill

    Nigger of the Narcissus
    Heart of Darkness
    The Rover
    by Joseph Conrad

    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    by James Joyce

    The Sun Also Rises
    by Earnest Hemingway

    Science Fiction
    The World of Null-A
    The Weapon Shops of Isher
    by A. E. van Vogt

    Friday (no kindle edition)
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (no kindle edition)
    The Door into Summer
    Glory Road
    Have Space Suit – Will Travel (Heinlein’s Juveniles Book 12)
    The Star Beast (Heinlein’s Juveniles Book 8)
    by Robert A. Heinlein

    Flowers for Algernon
    by Daniel Keyes

    A Canticle for Leibowitz (no kindle edition)
    by Walter M. Miller

    Darkover: First Contact: (Darkover Omnibus #6)
    Heritage and Exile (Darkover Omnibus Book 1)
    by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Falling Free (Vorkosigan Saga Book 1)
    Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga Book 2)
    Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga Book 3)
    The Warrior’s Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga Book 4)
    by Lois McMaster Bujold

    Fer de Lance
    The League of Frightened Men
    by Rex Stout

    Murder Must Advertise (Lord Peter Wimsey)
    by Dorothy L. SAYERS

    Death Comes for the Fat Man (Dalziel & Pascoe series Book 22)
    The Price of Butcher’s Meat (Dalziel & Pascoe series Book 23)
    Midnight Fugue (Dalziel & Pascoe series Book 24)
    by Reginald Hill

    Inspector Morse: The first three novels
    by Colin Dexter

    The Judas Pair (Lovejoy 1)
    Gold from Gemini (Lovejoy 2)
    by Jonathan Gash

    The Monkey’s Raincoat (An Elvis Cole Novel Book 1)
    L.A. Requiem (An Elvis Cole Novel Book 8)
    Hostage: A Novel
    by Robert Crais

    The Black Echo
    The Black Ice (A Harry Bosch Novel Book 2)
    Angels Flight (A Harry Bosch Novel Book 6)
    by Michael Connelly

    What are the Bugles Blowing For? (Henri Castang Book 2)
    by Nicolas Freeling

    Death at La Fenice: (Commissario Brunetti #1)
    Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Brunetti, #2)
    by Donna Leon

    Deal Breaker (Myron Bolitar, #1)
    Drop Shot (Myron Bolitar, #2)
    by Harlan Coben

    Three Men in a Boat
    by Jerome K Jerome

    Summer Lightning (Blandings Castle)
    Joy in the Morning (Jeeves and Wooster Book 8)
    The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves and Wooster Book 2)
    by P. G. Wodehouse

    by Nicholas Freeling

    Alice in Wonderland
    Through the Looking Glass
    by Lewis Carroll

    Of your List in this post, I’m familiar with about half of them. Both “The Martian” and “Ready Player One” were strongly recommended by two of my three brothers — I have bought “The Martian”, and it is in my to be read collection on my kindle. “Ready Player One” is on my kindle wishlist — as is “Seveneves”. I’m not a gamer — so I’m not sure I’ll ever get Ready Player One (those two brothers are addicted to games :grin).

    The only thing on your list that I’ve actually read is “A Town Like Alice”. I’ve read it twice: once in high school in Switzerland when I didn’t know much of the world, and certainly nothing about Australia. A couple of my Aussie classmates and my English teacher (a Brit) suggested it. Alice Springs is in the middle of nowhere in Australia. I reread it a couple of years back: what a difference 50 years makes! You really get a sense of Australia — it was much more meaningful the second time around. “A Town Like Alice” is very definitely my recommendation! :grin

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      “The Door into Summer” and “Friday” are my two favorite Heinlein books. In fact, “The Door Into Summer” was one of the books that got me hooked on sci-fi. The other was “Skylark of Space” by Doc Smith.

      I read “Stranger in a Strange Land” for a book report for 9th grade English. I chose it because it was new and I loved Heinlein not realizing it was the book where he jumped from young adult to free love! By the time I realized, it was too late to change books and I knew if I wrote the traditional plot summary type book report I’d be in big trouble, so I wrote bare bones plot summary and then filled out the rest of the report by writing about the themes of the book all the while hoping the teacher hadn’t read it and that I wouldn’t be branded a fraud and a pervert for reading a “dirty book” for a school book report. Fortunately, I got an A+ for doing more than just a plot summary and the teacher never mentioned the parts of the book I’d left out of the report.

      After I graduated from college, I went back to teach high school English at the school from which I’d graduated. My 9th grade English teacher was still teaching there. When his 50th birthday rolled around, his wife requested that those of us who worked with him write a remembrance. Since I had been both his student and his colleague, I wrote about the infamous book report. When I came to school the day after he had received his gift of the remembrances, he came into my room and gave me a big hug said of all the stories he received, mine was his favorite. He said if I were still his student, he would have given that one an A+ as well. I later discovered that he’d read it to everybody who went into the lounge that day, so of course I got a lot of good natured kidding about being fraud and a pervert from the rest of the faculty.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        That’s a great story! I love how someone can influence someone else like that…and I’m particularly impressed that your teacher didn’t “call you” on it.

        I do want to say, I don’t like reviews (not the same as a book report, but you inspired me to mention it) that summarize the plot. If you go beyond what you would see in a movie trailer (and even those sometimes go too far), it can be spoilery…and it seems lazy to me.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Wow! What a supportive sibling!

      That’s quite a list! I don’t tend to do the superlatives the way you have done (I think there is always a subjective element, which makes it very unlikely for me to name something as “best”, unless it is head and shoulders above everything else).

      Darkover and Van Vogt? Definitely.

      Flowers for Algernon? Brilliant.

      Me recommending one book to someone? Hard to imagine. I suppose…if I could cheat and do a complete works of Shakespeare, I might go with that.

  3. Tee Morris Says:

    I am a little biased…but there’s always room for steampunk. ;^)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tee!

      I understand. 🙂

      I’m usually reading multiple books, so for me, you are definitely right. 😉

  4. Round up #301: the value of reading, literate robots | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Pick my read #1 […]

  5. A new feature, and you can help…ILMK Readers’ Recommendations: book discovery zone | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Pick my read #1 […]

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